Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Monday, December 28, 2015

(90)Anything For You by Kristan Higgins

Jessica Dunn has one mission in life - to keep her mentally challenged brother, Davey, happy and healthy. Jessica is proud that they survived their childhood with alcoholic, neglectful parents and she is working hard to give them the security they have never known.  She has been dating local pub owner, Connor O'Rourke, but has to keep their relationship a secret because Davey hates him and just the mere mention of Connor triggers a meltdown.

Connor O'Rourke has had a thing for Jessica Dunn ever since they were kids. He doesn't care about her racy past, he doesn't care about her drunk parents, he just cares about her.  Their relationship has had ups and downs, but Connor thinks that their "downs" will even out on their own and he proposes to her anyway.  Connor never took into account that Davey's happiness is everything to Jessica and her "no" devastates him.  He tries to lower his expectations and take whatever relationship Jess is willing to give him, but is it enough?

Anything For You takes us back to Manningsport and we get to catch up with old friends. Jess and Connor's story is a bit unique because they come from opposite sides of the "track".  Jessica had a rough time growing up and has pulled herself up by her bootstraps.  Her devotion to Davey is quite commendable, but I could understand Connor's frustrations with the way she practically martyrs herself for him.  I thought having their father come back to town was an interesting twist.  I liked the way that story-line played out, it tugged at my heart strings.  In the end things worked out the way they were supposed to in true Kristan Higgins fashion.

Bottom line - Anything For You is another foray into the magical world of Manningsport, New York.  Connor and Jess's story is a sweet, quick read about a couple that was meant to be together.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

(89)Dietland by Sarai Walker

Plum Kettle is ready to start living her life and is counting down the days until her weight-loss surgery.  She has patiently been preparing for the surgery and life after surgery and that includes buying clothes that "Alicia" (her real name) will wear.  Plum's life up to now has been  pretty stark. She has no friends, she doesn't go anywhere, she doesn't do anything, and she even has a telecommuting job working for a posh teen magazine. Her whole existence is planning for her life after the surgery.  She stumbles across a book that sets her on a new course.  The book, Adventures in Dietland, is written by the daughter of the late weight-loss guru and soon Plum is pulled into a world where strong women have strong ideas on body image, what defines beauty, and are set on changing Plum's mind about surgery.  They promise Plum $20,000 if she agrees to complete a set of tasks that is meant to change her own perspective on beauty.  It doesn't take long for Plum to feel accepted and part of something greater than herself, but then she realizes that there might be more to this little group of misfits.  Could they be part of a vigilante group that is making men pay for their transgressions?

Dietland was one of the most unique books I have read this year.  Body-image has been a theme for me recently and I was thrilled to find such a great read.  I could see a little bit of myself in Plum Kettle, but I also found her a bit irritating in the way she was hiding from the world.  As an overweight woman, I get the desire for anonymity, but she took it to an extreme.  The weight loss groups mentioned in the book were very similar to groups that exist today.  Waist Watchers? The Baptist Diet Plan? Millions of people, mostly women, have given hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to diet plans just like them.  The women Plum meets along the way are also among the most unique characters of the year.  Marlowe, Verena,  and Leeta are all so unique they felt almost cartoonish.  There was a part of the book towards the end that was a bit over the top, a certain room in the basement. That whole scene was a bit weird for me, almost out of place.  That didn't stop me from enjoying Dietland and it's message.

Bottom line - Dietland is a delectable book about one woman's quest for beauty and in the end she found self-acceptance.  Definitely a great selection if you are hoping to make a change in 2016.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

(88)The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus by Eric Harvey

If you think about it, Santa Claus has to be one of the greatest businessmen of all time.  He has successfully run a global enterprise for centuries.  He manages a team of elves that manufactures and distributes toys to every boy and girl in the whole world.  His brand recognition has got to be better than Walt Disney, no?  So it stands to reason that the man in the red suit has to manage and lead the elves just like any other CEO.

The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus is a unique little business book told from Santa himself.  He discusses things like Misfit, the reindeer he had to let go for his poor performance and morale among the elves.  With cheesy little lines like "The solution was as clear as an unshaken snow globe: and "It can suck the jolly right out of you and turn "HoHo's into Woe Woes."" the reader will be entertained.   With a call to action at the end of each chapter you can see how his wise advice can apply to your career.  Advice like "Share the Milk and Cookies" and "Build a Wonderful Workshop" is great advice whether you are selling  books or building toys.

Bottom line - if you need a last minute gift for the business person in your life, may I suggest The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus and give the gift that keeps on giving.

  • The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus by Eric Harvey
  • Pages: 144
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks
  • Publication Date: 10/06/2015 (Reissue)
  • Buy it Here!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sunday, December 20, 2015

(87)The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell

Maya Wolfe is The Third Wife.  Her husband, Adrian, has two ex-wives and five children between them.  Maya is considerably younger than both her husband and his ex-wives and struggles to find her place in the family's unique dynamics.  After a night of drinking Maya steps off the curb into the path of an oncoming bus.  Was it an accident?  Was it suicide?  Or was it something much more sinister.  A year later the family, including Adrian,  is still trying to come to grips with her death when a young woman seeks out Adrian.  Something about Jane leads Adrian to believe she is tied to his late wife and when Adrian finds out that Maya was receiving malicious emails he is more determined than ever to track down Jane and find out what she is hiding.    Will she be able to reveal the truth about what happened that day? Was Maya's death an accident, suicide,  or murder?

The Third Wife was really a great read.  I struggled with even liking Adrian for many reasons but as the story continued he acknowledged some of those flaws.  As the story goes between past and present, it seemed like he and Maya had such a disconnect.  Maya increasingly felt like an outsider in their marriage and in their family. But it is when she started to connect with another man that I knew that her death could possibly have not been an accident.  It surprised me a bit who that other man was, but given the dysfunction in the family, I wasn't that surprised.  In the end, you would hope that Adrian would redeem himself and help the family heal,  He does a little, but I still found him quite unappealing. The setting of London during the 2012 Olympics just added the feeling that, despite everything, the Wolfe's are just a normal family.

Bottom line - even though I found Adrian to bit of a cad, I did enjoy the family drama that was The Third Wife.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sunday, December 13, 2015

(86.) Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt

Wayne and Kelly Maines always knew they wanted children so, when they were unable to have their own they adopted identical twin boys, Wyatt and Jonas.  From a very young age it was evident that Wyatt was different than his brother.  Wyatt preferred to play with barbie dolls, wear clothes from the girl section, and walk around the house pretending he had long hair using a bath towel.  He was practically a toddler when he declared that he hated his penis.  At first Kelly and Wayne are at a loss of how to handle Wyatt, but his insistence that he is a girl will not end and all they know is that he is their baby and they will do anything for him.  Kelly starts to  research and starts to believe that Wyatt is transgendered.  While Kelly researches, advocates, and buys clothes from the girls section, Wayne keeps his head down and struggles with how to process the fact that his son wants to be his daughter.  Around the fifth grade Wyatt changes his name to Nicole and wears his first dress to school and that is when the real fight begins  Together the family faces challenge after challenge to get equality for Nicole.  Together the family faces bullies of all ages.  Together the family will stand in courtrooms and at conferences to help one and all to understand that all Nicole wants to be is a normal girl.

Becoming Nicole is the story of one American family told by Amy Ellis Nutt.  From the very beginning I could relate to Kelly and even empathize with Wayne.  They are a middle class, conservative family and their beliefs were being challenged by their child.  I have nothing but mad respect for the way Wayne and Kelly handled raising Nicole. It may have taken Wayne longer to process and accept, but he was the one to dance with his daughter at the school's Father/Daughter dance.  He was the one to stand in court and defend his daughter.  He was the one invited, with Nicole, to go to the White House.  The family, including Jonas, made great sacrifices for Nicole, but they would have it any other way.   To say that the author did a great job telling the Maine's story is an understatement, she doesn't just tell you Nicole's personal story, but he covers history, science, and more in her effort to help people understand exactly what it means to be transgendered.

Bottom line - people fear what they don't know or understand and I believe statements of ignorance come from a place of fear.  I am sure we have all seen the hateful things said about Caitlyn Jenner over the last few months and I believe the majority of them come from people who just don't understand.  But Nicole is not Caitlyn, Nicole is a beautiful young woman who knew who she was from a very tender age.  If just one person comes away from reading Becoming Nicole with a changed perspective, then Amy Ellis Nutt and the Maines family have done their job.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

(85)Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

Simon Connolly is a Stay-At-Home-Dad going about his ordinary day when he receives a text from his kid's school. There has been a shooting and then provides a location for parents to go to get more information.  Soon Simon's wife, Rachel, meets him at the church.  Then their daughter walks in to the church - shaken and scared. As kid after kid arrives at the church into the arms of their waiting parents, Simon anxiously keeps looking for his son, Jake.  As the agonizing afternoon passes the whispers start and then the police are standing before him asking questions. Thirteen kids are dead and Jake's blood was found on a door one of the gunmen was had run through, but Jake is nowhere to be found.  The police believe that Jake was working with the other gunman and soon even Simon is questioning his son's innocence.  The race is on and Simon will stop at nothing to find Jake.

Finding Jake is the story of one parent's nightmare.  Simon wants to believe his son's innocence, but the building evidence is quite damning.  Rachel is furious in Simon's wavering support and just wants her baby to come home.  The police, the reporters, the angry parents and the stress of it all is taking a toll on their relationship in just a few short days.  The book is told in alternating time periods, present and at different intervals in Jake's life.  It gives the reader a chance to really get to know Simon, Jake and the whole family.  The author gives the reader just enough information for you to draw your own conclusion, but when the truth is revealed there is no way it is going to be a happy ending. You just don't know which bad road you are going to go down.   That is what makes Finding Jake so thrilling.  The story is racing to a conclusion like a runaway train towards a cliff, and you will find your pulse racing and heart pounding.

Bottom line - Finding Jake is the kind of book that may give you nightmares, but it is sure going to make for a great discussion at your next book club meeting.

  • Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon
  • On Facebook
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Publication Date: 11/17/2015 (Paperback)
  • Pages: 288
  • Buy it Here!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sunday, December 6, 2015

(84)Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand

It is that time of year again and we are back in Nantucket catching up with the Quinn family.  Kelley starts the book out with his annual Christmas letter and it is obvious that the past year has not been easy for the Quinn family.  Bart is still missing, Patrick is in prison,  Kelley and Mitzi have divorced and Kelley is not enjoying single life.  Ava is still dating Scott, but is torn between two men.  The one bright spot is Kevin and Isabelle's beautiful baby girl, Genevieve.  The family has gathered in Nantucket for baby Genevieve's baptism, which should be a joyous occasion, but the stress of the past year has taken it's toll.   Depression and addiction are taking it's toll on the respected Nantucket family, will they be able to put all of their concerns aside to celebrate together as a family?

I first met the Quinn last year when I read Winter Street.   The characters are comfortable and familiar and at different stages in their life.  Once again we get to read the story through all of the character's eyes.   Kevin appears to have grown up and his whole world revolves around his baby daughter.    When Nathaniel reappears in Ava's life she is torn between the two men.   Mitzi and Jennifer are complete train-wrecks and it is concerning to see they way they lean on their addictions.  What is more concerning is that everybody in the family is so wrapped up in their own problems they don't see the danger right under their noses.   I think my favorite couple in a story full of couples is Margaret and Drake.  Their relationship took a nice step in the right direction.   At the end there  is some light at the end of tunnel, but we are left not knowing how things turn out.   Obviously the author set it up for a third book coming next holiday season, I am sure.  

Bottom line - I was a little late to the party with Christmas stories this year, but I was sure to start with one of my favorite authors.   Winter Stroll lacks the Christmas "magic" I tend to love in my stories, but I know the author is building to a great conclusion to the trilogy.  I am willing to wait her out. 


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

Follow Us @soratemplates

Contact Us


Email *

Message *

Popular Posts

Contact us

Total Pageviews